This week's worst kickstarter video: The ergonomic ice cream scoop

Rooting through dragon's bin.

Last week, we saw how charisma (and Mongolian-themed bellowing) can cajole strangers into giving you money for old rope on Kickstarter.

This time, we take away the charisma, keep the old rope and add an infomercial that’s harder to watch than a man chewing off his own legs.   

The brief: £20,000 needed to make an ice cream scoop that protects the wrist from the strain of scooping hard ice cream using an uncomfortable-looking bit of metal.

The need for the ErgoScoop, we are informed by an election-season-smear-ad-style voiceover, is that "carpal tunnel syndrome is the major cause of injuries, time off and worker’s compensation claims in the ice cream dispensing business today".

To hammer home this crisis, we are treated to a heart-stretchingly slow sequence where a scooper reaches repeatedly into an ice cream cabinet like a drugged bear rummaging through a fire, before unleashing a collection of bizarrely ethnic yelps of agony upon contact (“Oi vey!”, “Mama Mia!”). It’s all a bit Alan Partridge:

The saddest bit is the sense that the inventor feels he has solved one of the world’s great problems. He thinks he’s invented the next wind-up radio, when in fact he’s just made a thing that makes the user look like some kind of scoop-fisted pound shop Wolverine.

He talks about "hundreds of thousands" of dessert servers toiling with mangled wrists, and offers $500 donators the chance to be distributors, further growing the ErgoScoop empire.

This kickstarter, like so many, falls down on its investment rewards: if I pay this guy enough to make his thing, he'll let me sell it for him. Where do I sign up?

At least the Khans had fun in offering me next to nothing. The best I can get here is ice cream scoops at $25 a pop.

Think I'll just get one for £5, and wave goodbye to my wrists.

Fred Crawley is group editor for asset finance & accounting at VRL Financial News.

Look how ergonomic this scoop is. Photograph:

By day, Fred Crawley is editor of Credit Today and Insolvency Today. By night, he reviews graphic novels for the New Statesman.

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Can Trident be hacked?

A former defence secretary has warned that Trident is vulnerable to cyber attacks. Is it?

What if, in the event of a destructive nuclear war, the prime minister goes to press the red button and it just doesn't work? 

This was the question raised by Des Browne, a former defence secretary, in an interview witht the Guardian this week. His argument, based on a report from the defence science board of the US Department of Defense, is that the UK's Trident nuclear weapons could be vulnerable to cyberattacks, and therefore rendered useless if hacked. 

Browne called for an "end-to-end" assessment of the system's cybersecurity: 

 The government ... have an obligation to assure parliament that all of the systems of the nuclear deterrent have been assessed end-to-end against cyber attacks to understand possible weak spots and that those weak spots are protected against a high-tier cyber threat. If they are unable to do that then there is no guarantee that we will have a reliable deterrent or the prime minister will be able to use this system when he needs to reach for it.

Is he right? Should we really be worried about Trident's potential cyber weaknesses?

Tangled webs 

The first, crucial thing to note is that Trident is not connected to the "internet" we use every day. Sure, it's connected to the main Ministry of Defence network, but this operates totally independently of the network that you visit Facebook through. In cyber-security terms, this means the network is "air-gapped" - it's isolated from other systems that could be less secure. 

In our minds, Trident is old and needs replacing (the submarines began patrolling in the 1990s), but any strike would be ordered and co-ordinated from Northwood, a military bunker 100m underground which would use the same modern networks as the rest of the MoD. Trident is basically as secure as the rest of the MoD. 

What the MoD said

I asked the Ministry of Defence for a statement on Trident's security, and while it obviously can't offer much information about how it all actually works, a spokesperson confirmed that the system is air-gapped and added: 

We wouldn't comment on the detail of our security arrangements for the nuclear deterrent but we can and do safeguard it from all threats including cyber.

What security experts said

Security experts agree that an air-gapped system tends to be more secure than one connected to the internet. Sean Sullivan, a security adviser at F-secure, told Infosecurity magazine that while some hackers have been able to "jump" air-gaps using code, this would cause "interference" at most and a major attack of this kind is still "a long way off". 

Franklin Miller, a former White House defence policy offer, told the Guardian that the original report cited by Browne was actually formulated in response to suggestions that some US defence networks should be connected to the internet. In that case, it actually represents an argument in favour of the type of air-gapped system used by the MoD. 

So... can it be hacked?

The answer is really that any system could be hacked, but a specialised, independent defence network is very, very unlikely to be. If a successful hack did happen, it would likely affect all aspects of defence, not just Trident. That doesn't mean that every effort shouldn't be made to make sure the MoD is using the most secure system possible, but it also means that scaremongering in the context of other, unrelated cybersecurity scares is a little unjustified. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.